Let’s face it. International moves – at least the tasks involved with moving – are really never much fun. Putting your life in boxes, then shipping it around the world, is a major and stressful event. And add children to the mix, and it truly is a major upheaval for everyone in the family.
This blog is a bit more personal than those I have previously written. First of all, I would like to explain my lack of blog posts for the last 5 months. I experienced my own international mobility this summer, and the boxes in this photo are just some of the 240+ boxes I received on the eve of leaving for the IECA national conference in the United States.
You’d think that I would already know all there is to know about moving internationally based on the previous moves I have made. After all, I have lived in 10 countries now – but there is also something more to learn if we take a moment to be introspective. Here are some of the lessons I have reflected on lately.
1) The late David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken in their book The Third Culture Kid Experience: Growing Up Among Worlds, wrote about the phases of transition – Involvement, Leaving, Chaos/Crisis, Entering, and Reinvolvement. I had to remind myself numerous times during the last 4 months that I traveled and lived out of a suitcase that I was experiencing the “chaos” part of transition. That reminder helped me to smooth out the bumps and stress.
2) We were not the only family to not only experience this, but survive it. When I did my “end of summer” check-in with the families I worked with last year, I realized that about 80% of them had also moved internationally over the summer. I wrote each one of them to see how things were going, how the kids were doing in school, and how the new freshmen were adjusting to college. Every email I received back was the same story – life was chaotic, everyone was readjusting, and everyone was forging ahead, one step at a time. These kids define what a Third Culture Kid is by their own ability to adapt and bounce back. Talk about courage. I took comfort and strength in hearing that I was not alone in my “chaos” phase of transition.
3) One has to set priorities, and loosen up on some personal expectations during a move. For me, my priorities were my own family, my students and their families, and the rest was just icing on the cake. That meant that I worked hard to be sure that I was aware of and sensitive to the needs of my own immediate family and at the same time, I made sure that the needs of my students were served. I sincerely hope that not a single student or family felt that I was any less available to them than I would have been had I been stationary in one place.
4) But that means letting go of some things, too. And in my case, I decided that I could do a lot of things, but not everything at once. Therefore, I let the blog go. I let the Educating Global Nomads newsletter go. I stopped beating myself up for not being able to do it all. The priority, after all, was making sure that students were served.
5) No matter what happens, see it as an opportunity. I was on the move a lot this summer, but I used every opportunity I had to visit new colleges, universities, and therapeutic schools and programs. I also took advantage of the opportunity to present at an international conference (OACAC), served on a panel at NACAC, and wrote two articles for publication. I may have been living out of a suitcase, but I made the most of being free to travel.
6) Attitude is the only thing that you can really control. For me, that’s probably the number one factor in my own resiliency. I found that I couldn’t control for many factors – when and how my household goods were shipped, local customs clearance, bureaucratic hassles, etc. But I could control my reaction to the frustrations. Not that I was always a happy camper – I know I’m far from perfect – but overall, I tried to keep my patience and sense of humor.
So now that I’m here, unpacked, and resettled, I’m ready to go full steam ahead again. I’m in the “entering” phase, saying goodbye to “chaos”. Back to blogging. Back to newsletters. Back to the numerous projects and ideas I have put on hold. And oh yeah…back to the gym!
by Rebecca Grappo, M.Ed, C.E.P., founder of RNG International Educational Consultants, LLC